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'Smaller Groupings' in Indo-Pacific Could Lead to Polarisation, Indian Navy Admiral Warns

© AP Photo / Manish SwarupAn Indian navy sailor walks past the national flag emblem during Independence Day celebrations at the historic 17th century Red Fort in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021
An Indian navy sailor walks past the national flag emblem during Independence Day celebrations at the historic 17th century Red Fort in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.05.2022
The Indian Navy admiral was speaking at the “Indo Pacific Sea Power Conference 2022 (IP22)” that kicked off in Sydney on Tuesday. Military leaders and delegates from around 40 countries are attending the biennial security event.
A top officer in the Indian Navy on Tuesday warned that “smaller groupings” and “internal groupings” in the Indo-Pacific could lead to “polarisation” in the broader region.

“Such a large grouping however does have a few downsides”, remarked Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, the flag officer commanding-in-chief of India's Eastern Naval Command.

“Therefore, the inclusivity versus exclusivity debate may come in once in a while”, added Dasgupta.
His remarks appeared to be a reference to concerns expressed by Beijing and Moscow over the emerging security architecture in the region, including US-led groupings such as AUKUS and the Quad.
The trilateral AUKUS military pact between Australia, the US, and the UK has been slammed by Beijing as inciting an "arms race” in the Indo-Pacific.
New Delhi, which is part of the Quad grouping, has been careful against lending the US-led mechanism a security connotation.
Dasgupta emphasised in his address that most of the activities that Indian forces were undertaking in the region fell well below the “military threshold”.
“Cooperation among countries of the region will come with shared values, shared interests, and historical perspectives of each nation. And these are sometimes vastly different”, Dasgupta stated during his address.

“Therefore, cooperation and collaboration within this region would have to be based on issue-based convergences”, he further remarked.

The Indian Navy admiral cautioned that it was “possible” for countries to “not agree with each other on all issues”.
“The effectiveness of rules-based international order depends upon the obedience of rules. In case, rules are not obeyed, there must be mechanisms to apply pressure to what is the common understanding of the international good order and discipline at sea”, he also suggested in the address.

Ukraine Conflict Shows Importance of Self-Reliance, Says Dasgupta

Arguing against the idea of entering a full-fledged alliance with a foreign country, the Indian Navy admiral argued that the aftermath of the “current conflict” in Ukraine has “put nations dependent on others in trouble”.
New Delhi has on several occasions expressed concerns about supply chain disruptions caused by the conflict in Ukraine and the subsequent Western sanctions against Russia over its special military operation aimed at demilitarising and de-Nazifying its neighbour.

“The idea of self-reliance (economic and defence) has been underscored”, he said.

“From the perspective of India, it is a national policy that we will be self-dependent and reduce dependence on external resources”, he added.
“India is not in the business of entering a military alliance”, he also declared.
Dasgupta, however, added that New Delhi was consistently looking at enhancing its “interoperability” in high-end military operation with regional countries as an “insurance” against future security risks.

“The aim is peace, stability and constructive engagement”, he stated.

Dasgupta noted that the conflict has also brought into focus the role of a nation’s geography.

“The debate on close neighbours versus distant neighbours is something that countries will have to think about”, remarked Dasgupta.

The Indian naval official explained that New Delhi’s priority was to “safeguard” its interests in the neighbourhood as part of the "Neighbourhood First Policy" before engaging with other parts of the world.
“Capability development is important for us, not only for us but also for smaller neighbours around us”, he explained.
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